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Comparison of the Effectiveness of Polyethylene Glycol With and Without Electrolytes in Constipation: A Systematic Review and Network Meta-Analysis

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Review

Comparison of the Effectiveness of Polyethylene Glycol With and Without Electrolytes in Constipation: A Systematic Review and Network Meta-Analysis

Peter Katelaris et al. BMC Gastroenterol.

Abstract

Background: Polyethylene glycol is commonly used to manage constipation and is available with or without electrolytes. The addition of electrolytes dates back to its initial development as lavage solutions in preparation for gastrointestinal interventions. The clinical utility of the addition of electrolytes to polyethylene glycol for the management of constipation is not established. The objective of this systematic review and network meta-analysis (NMA) was to assess the relative effectiveness of polyethylene glycol with (PEG + E) or without electrolytes (PEG) in the management of functional constipation in adults.

Methods: A systematic review was conducted to identify randomised controlled clinical trials that assessed the use of polyethylene glycol in functional constipation. The primary outcome was the mean number of bowel movements per week.

Results: Nineteen studies were included in the NMA (PEG N = 9, PEG + E N = 8, PEG versus PEG + E N = 2; involving 2247 patients). PEG and PEG + E are both effective, increasing the number of bowel movements per week by 1.8 (95 % Crl 1.0, 2.8) and 1.9 (95 % Crl 0.9, 3.0) respectively versus placebo and by 1.8 (95 % Crl 0.0, 3.5) and 1.9 (95 % Crl 0.2, 3.6) respectively versus lactulose. There was no efficacy difference between PEG + E and PEG (0.1, 95 % Crl -1.1, 1.2) and there were no differences in safety or tolerability.

Conclusions: Polyethylene glycol with and without electrolytes are effective and safe treatments for constipation in adults. The addition of electrolytes to polyethylene glycol does not appear to offer any clinical benefits over polyethylene glycol alone in the management of constipation.

Keywords: Constipation; Macrogol; Meta-analysis; Polyethylene glycol; Systematic review.

Figures

Fig. 1
Fig. 1
Flow chart of study selection
Fig. 2
Fig. 2
Network formed by interventions and their direct comparisons included in the analyses
Fig. 3
Fig. 3
Mean difference in weekly bowel movements PEG + E vs PEG (head-to-head studies)
Fig. 4
Fig. 4
Pairwise comparisons for PEG and PEG + E from the network meta-analysis

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